Education Week - September 19, 2012 - (Page 8)
SEPTEMBER 19, 2012
Researchers Link ‘Responsive’ Classes To Learning Gains
By Jaclyn Zubrzycki
Fifth graders in schools where teachers faithfully used the Responsive Classroom teaching approach performed better on statewide assessments of mathematics and reading skills than their peers at schools that did not use the social-emotional-learning program’s strategies as much, according to new research presented at a national conference here month. The findings, discussed at the fall meeting of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, are part of a comprehensive, three-year study of the program, which trains 10,000 teachers each year. A team of researchers led by Sara Rimm-Kaufman, an associate professor of leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, has also been examining the program’s effect on teacher-student dynamics in the classroom and on standardsbased math instruction. Those and other findings are being shared in a series of upcoming and recently published papers. “When there’s top-notch research like [Ms. Rimm-Kaufman’s] showing positive effects academically for social- and emotional-learning programs, it’s a great contribution,” said Paul Goren, the vice president for research and knowledge use at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or casel, in Chicago. The findings were also welcomed by Gretchen L. Bukowick, the director of professional-service delivery for the Northeast Foundation for Children, the
Turners Falls, Mass.-based organization that developed the approach. “This helps us put some evidence behind what we believe,” she said. “Academic, social, and emotional learning all go hand in hand.” Social and emotional learning programs focus on teaching students how to manage emotions and their behaviors and interactions with others. Some do so through direct lessons, but Responsive Classroom focuses on teacher language and modeling expectations, describing itself as an approach to learning rather than a program.
High Fidelity, High Scores
In this second in-depth study of the program led by Ms. RimmKaufman, 24 elementary schools in an unnamed Virginia district were randomly assigned to either receive training, materials, coaching, and administrative support to implement Responsive Classroom or to be part of a control group that did not adopt the program. The researchers followed 2,904 students, taught by 295 teachers, from 3rd to 5th grade, and examined their academic performance on 5th grade state exams. The researchers also used surveys and observations to determine the degree to which Responsive Classroom practices were used in every school in the district, as the approach involves practices that may also be used by teachers who were not teaching in the Responsive Classroom schools. Simply being assigned to implement Responsive Classroom strat-
egies did not have a direct effect on student scores, the researchers found, but there was a strong indirect effect: Schools in which teachers adhered more closely to the approach had significantly higher math scores, especially for students who had had low math scores in 2nd grade. Even within the group of schools that was not assigned to use Responsive Classroom, morefrequent use of the approach’s strategies was correlated with higher math achievement. In both the control and treatment groups, using more Responsive Classroom practices was associated with a 23-point gain on state standardized tests. Which specific program components were associated with higher performance will be the topic of a different paper, Ms. Rimm-Kaufman said, but preliminary findings show that the program’s focus on academic choice— allowing students to pick among different activities to accomplish the same learning goals—may be particularly effective. On the other hand, students in schools that were assigned to implement the program but did
not do so diligently actually saw a small negative effect on their scores. “If you have lackluster fidelity, you don’t see gains in whatever the intervention happens to be,” Ms. Rimm-Kaufman said. But she said the score drop-off may also be tied to “something about schools and teachers that is both predicting use of practices and predicting achievement gains.”
First graders Will McDowell and Jonathan Fulton practice shaking hands at William H. Rowe School in Yarmouth, Maine. The exercise reflects the school’s use of Responsive Classroom techniques.
A Schoolwide Effort
The fact that the schools that implemented the program more faithfully saw better results is no surprise, said casel’s Mr. Goren. Previous research on similar programs has also indicated that social-emotional-learning programs are more effective when they are whole-school initiatives. In this case, researchers found that fidelity was associated with having a principal or school leader who buys in to the program, with teachers’ feelings of being supported and validated in taking up the new program, and with the presence of strong coaching. Implementation was more challenging when teachers said that the
program was one of many being “thrown at them,” or that they were unsupported. The findings are part of a growing body of research showing that social-emotional learning can positively influence academic, as well as behavioral, results. “A lot of people believe that we just don’t have time for social skills, and yet the data continue to show it’s a great investment,” said Steven Elliott, the director of the Learning Sciences Institute at Arizona State University in Tempe, who has conducted previous studies of the approach.
Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to the abstract for “Efficacy of the Responsive Classroom Approach: Results from a Three Year, Longitudinal Randomized Control Trial.” edweek.org/links.
Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing in Early-Childhood Education
By Lesli A. Maxwell
The United States lags behind most of the world’s leading economies when it comes to providing early-childhood-education opportunities, despite improvements in recent years, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows. According to the report released last week by the Paris-based oecd, the United States ranks 28th out of 38 countries for the share of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-primary education programs, at 69 percent. That’s compared with more than 95 percent enrollment rates in France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Mexico, which lead the world in early-childhood participation rates for 4-yearolds. Ireland, Poland, Finland, and Brazil are among the countries that trail the United States. The United States also invests significantly less public money in earlychildhood programs than its counterparts in the Group of Twenty, or G-20, economies, which include 19 countries and the European Union. On average, across the countries in the oecd report, 84 percent of earlychildhood students were enrolled in public programs or in private settings that receive major government resources in 2010. Just 55 percent of U.S. preschool students were enrolled in publicly supported programs in 2010; 45 percent attended independent private programs. “The United States is still pretty far behind much of the rest of the industrialized world,” in terms of publicly supported early-childhood opportunities, Andreas Schleicher, the oecd’s deputy director for education and the special adviser on education policy to its secretary-general, said in a briefing. He noted that the benefits of early-childhood education are apparent in the outcomes for individual students, but are less obvious at the school system or country level. He pointed to France, where participation is nearly universal, but overall outcomes for students who take the oecd’s Program for International Student Assessment, or pisa, are not nearly as strong as they are in Finland, which ranks even lower than the United States on participation in formal earlychildhood programs. cators for the first time this year, just as state and federal policymakers in the United States increasingly home in on the need for expanding access to quality early education for 3- and 4-year-olds as a key to preparing students for academic success later. Other new measures examined how a parent’s education influences a child’s academic-attainment levels and factors that affect how immigrant children perform academically. They found that the United States presents some of the longest odds for college attainment for children born to parents who did not finish high school, ranking near the bottom on this indicator for upward social mobility. Just 29 percent of U.S. students whose parents did not finish high school are likely to go on to college, compared with over 70 percent in Iceland, and more than 60 percent in Turkey, Portugal, and Ireland. Only Canada and New Zealand ranked behind the United States on the socialmobility measure. Among other key findings for the United States, the report also notes that: •The United States ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have earned a postsecondary degree. •American students rely more heavily on private sources to pay for higher education than their peers in other oecd countries. •Teachers in the United States are paid less and spend more time teaching than their peers in most other oecd countries.
Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Education at a Glance 2012.”
But overall, students in oecd countries who have attended earlychildhood programs tend to perform better on pisa than those who did not, said Mr. Schleicher. The oecd’s annual international comparison of education systems included the early-childhood indi-
John Tully for Education Week
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 19, 2012
Education Week - September 19, 2012
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Low Proficiency Seen on Computer-Based NAEP Writing Exam
Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing In Early-Childhood Education
Scholars and Educators Team Up For the Long Haul
Focus On: School Turnaround
Virtual Ed. Providers Work to Influence State Policy in Maine
Blogs of the Week
In Designated Schools, Children Play Waiting Games
Chicago Dispute Puts Spotlight On Teacher Evaluation
Race to Top Winners Plug Away At Promises
Chiefs’ Vacancies Offer Prospect Of Policy Shifts
Learning From Success
Using National Service To Ignite School Turnaround Efforts
You Don’t Know Me
TopSchool Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Schooling Beyond Measure
Education Week - September 19, 2012